Back in the June 2008 issue, we tested a helmet with a photochromic faceshield (Wiki Wave-100 Helmet and Wikishift shield) that displayed the ability to change tint according to available sunlight, meaning that the shield was clear in dark conditions but became darker in brighter conditions. This helps with the issue of those riders using a dark tint faceshield during the day on long rides, but being forced to keep a clear shield with them when it turns to night. That same technology is found on the Transitions SOLFX ClickRelease faceshield now available for selected models of Bell full-face helmets.
You’ve surely seen photochromic glasses that have the ability to change from clear to tint when exposed to sunlight. These use embedded molecular compounds in the glass itself that react to UV light. This technology is also available for plastic lenses, but the reason this hasn’t been applied to helmet faceshields so readily is that they are made from polycarbonate plastic, which is actually too dense a material for the molecular change to occur. The technology is now possible on faceshields because a patented, highly advanced process was developed that coats the shield with a medium for the photochromic molecules to work in.
Like any clear faceshield, the SOLFX shield remains that way, at least until exposed to sunlight (artificial light doesn’t contain UV rays, so indoor lighting won’t activate it). The transition to full tint takes about 15 seconds on an average 75-degree-Fahrenheit day; however, ambient temperature plays a role in the transition speed, with colder temps allowing faster transition.
We found the SOLFX shield at full tint to be of more than adequate darkness, although it’s not quite on the level of a standard dark tint faceshield. Also, the tint adapts to light conditions, so it’s not full tint or full clear; the tint change as daylight fades is just as gradual.
Like the Wikishift shield, the change to clear on the SOLFX shield takes a little longer. We found the transition from full tint to full clear to average about two minutes on the same average temperature day (again, lower ambient temps are said to increase this transition time). However, don’t think that the shield may be dangerous when going into a dark tunnel or other sudden drop in light conditions; as we found in daylight, the tint isn’t as dark as a standard dark tint faceshield, so you’re still able to see adequately until the shield fully transitions to clear.
Bell’s NutraFog II anti-fog coating seems to do a decent job, and we found its anti-fog properties to be more than adequate. Anti-scratch and UV-protective coatings are also applied to the SOLFX shield, with the UV coating claimed to block 99 percent of UV rays.
The Transitions SOLFX ClickRelease faceshield is made to fit the Bell Star, Vortex, RS-1, and Revolver helmets.